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Gaza

Volume 569: debated on Wednesday 23 October 2013

5. What assessment she has made of the adequacy of the levels of food, fuel and medical supplies entering Gaza each day. (900647)

Although the supply of food in Gaza is adequate, prices are rising fast. The level of fuel and medical supplies has dropped, exacerbating an already precarious humanitarian situation and threatening the basic needs of ordinary people in Gaza.

The Minister has recognised in his reply that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is increasingly fragile. The impoverished Palestinian population is reliant on the tunnels for affordable goods. The tightening of restrictions by the Egyptian and Israeli authorities is resulting in shockingly high prices for fuel and basic commodities. With access to, and the affordability of, food becoming a huge problem, will the Government acknowledge that the blockade of Gaza is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and constitutes collective punishment?

There are extremely serious matters of life and death in Gaza. Let us hear the questions and the Minister’s answers.

I recognise exactly what the hon. Gentleman says. We would far rather see free movement and access for trade and economic activity in Gaza than an economy that is channelled through tunnels in a way that benefits Hamas. Israel’s plan to expand the capacity of the Allenby crossing between the west bank and Jordan is a welcome example of the sort of steps that can be taken to improve trade.

The truth is that the international community and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency will have to continue supporting thousands of people in Gaza and the west bank until a two-state solution is found or until Gaza and the west bank are incorporated into de jure Israel. Permanent occupation is a perpetual hell for thousands of people. When will the international community find a long-term solution for Gaza and the west bank?

I hope that the efforts that are under way will lead to exactly the kind of agreement that my hon. Friend is seeking. The efforts of my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, in particular in working with the US Administration, will hopefully lead to a two-state solution and a long-lasting agreement that lead to peace and security between the two countries.

The Minister will be aware that the price of fuel in Gaza has almost doubled in recent weeks. What steps is his Department taking to assist small businesses in Gaza, particularly fishermen, who have been hit hard by that increase?

The hon. Lady makes a very fair point. The amount of fuel that enters Gaza via the tunnels has halved from about 1 million litres a day in June to about 500,000 litres this month. The Gaza power plant is operating at half its capacity, triggering electricity blackouts of up to 12 hours a day, exacerbating the already difficult economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza.